February 2, 2011 3:21 PM
by Ed Blankenship
Wow! – If you are waking up this morning you might have noticed some news in the .NET community. Red Gate has announced (official press release) that they will no longer be offering a free version of .NET Reflector after February 2011.
Red Gate mentioned when it acquired .NET Reflector from Lutz Roeder that they intended to keep it as a free tool for use by the entire .NET community. At the time, I was (and still am) a Friend of Red Gate and I couldn’t really figure out how they would go about making that commercially viable. I figured it had something to do with driving folks to their site and then being able to monetize by making those visitors aware of their other great products. (BTW – Truly great products. Quite polished as in they work correctly, easily updatable, sends error reports back to the developers, etc. You know what I’m talking about…) From what it sounds like, whichever approach they originally intended to make, it didn’t pan out in the past 2.5 years. That’s really unfortunate and leaves the company with the choice that they announced today. Looks like their co-CEO has a quick question & answer video response on YouTube available now as well.
I’m not too upset about it though. At times we have the best of intentions, but when those intentions are met with the realities of business and they become untenable, you have to find a different route. Ultimately, Red Gate needs to make money. There aren’t many companies who have extra budget to maintain, support, and invest in a free product unless it is driving revenue into other parts of the business. I see .NET Reflector as one of the key tools in a .NET Developer’s toolkit and that requires recurring love & attention as the .NET Framework changes. That’s good and very much needed for the .NET community.
At the end of the day, it looks like Red Gate is making the right decision however difficult it is to some developers. I can only imagine the uproar that may come out of this decision but personally, I have wanted to see a good amount of investment in such a great tool and since there is so much that can be done with it. I’m sure we have a ton of ideas of things we would do to improve Reflector. By monetizing it, I think the development team at Red Gate will have the resources and continued interest from the .NET community to be able to do just that. I’m pretty impressed with the new features that they have already announced for the next major version. This is a step in the right direction and I have a feeling we will start to see more features that make us more productive and ultimately makes the ROI on such an inexpensive ($35) product worth it. It’s reasonable and totally worth it.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts…
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Ed Blankenship is a Product Manager at Microsoft for Visual Studio Online. I am an author of a few books, former Microsoft MVP of the Year, and former ALM consultant. I hold Office Hours each week if you are interested in chatting.
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